**This Q&A, conducted and written by Distributed Learning’s Online Community Coordinator Cory Pina, has been reposted from The Quad.
Fuller alums Jon Huckins (L) and Jer Swigart with President Mark Labberton in Israel. Photo courtesy of Jon Huckins
Right at this moment, Jer Swigart and Jon Huckins are leading a “Learning Community”—a group of people who will be exposed to the lives of Everyday Peacemakers embedded in the midst of conflict.
Jon and Jer, both Fuller grads, were inspired by an experience with Fuller’s Just Peacemaking Initiative to create an environment of learning and exposure to peacemaking practices. It's called The Global Immersion Project.
I asked Jer some questions about Global Immersion: how it got started, and what kind of challenges they‘ve faced along the way.
Not only was he kind enough to share some answers for The Quad, but they just landed in Israel yesterday for a Learning Lab (more on that below). You can follow along with their current Learning Community here.
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CORY: Global Immersion isn’t your day-job, right? What else are you and Jon up to?
JER: That's right. I’m the Founder, Directional Leader, and Pastor of Mission at The Open Door Community in Walnut Creek, CA. Open Door is a mostly-millenial and slightly multi-generational collective of people pursuing God’s dream for a world where the things that are wrong have been made right. We orient ourselves around the life and teachings of Jesus. Most of us live, work, and play in the neighborhoods of San Francisco’s East Bay, and almost all of us are finding that the downwardly mobile journey of the Cross for the sake of others’ flourishing is the best possible way to live.
Jon lives and leads in an intentional community of Jesus followers who are deeply rooted in a diverse San Diego neighborhood. He is also on staff with Thresholds as a missional church leadership coach. Jon sits on his neighborhood council, helped start the local farmer’s market, and is committed to living as a reconciling presence at home as well as abroad. He is also a writer and contributes to numerous publications including Red Letter Christians, Sojourners, RELEVANT and theBurnside Writer’s Collective. He’s also written two books: Teaching Through the Art of Storytelling and Thin Places: Six Postures for Creating and Practicing Missional Community.
CORY: What is the Global Immersion Project, and how did you and Jon come about putting this all together?
JER: The mission of The Global Immersion Project s to cultivate Everyday Peacemakers in the Way of Jesus through immersion in global conflict. Our vision is to see the church embrace peacemaking as central to God’s Mission and embody its vocation as God’s instrument of peace. We hope to mobilize an entire generation of men and women who move toward conflict transformatively and season the world with the things that make for peace. We want to see communities shifting in their understanding of peace from a soft, euphoric ideal, to the gritty, subversive, and costly work of discipleship.
The adventure began in 2011 as both Jon and I participated in Fuller’s Just Peacemaking study tour hosted by Drs. Glen Stassen, Marc Gopin (George Mason) and David Gushee (Mercer University) and facilitated through The Just Peacemaking Initiative. While there, we were captivated by both the tragic reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and our country’s involvement in it while simultaneously being captured by the Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers embedded within. Upon our return, we asked the following three questions:
- What would happen if we exposed people from our own communities to our new Israeli & Palestinian peacemaking friends?
- What would change in our understanding of global interaction if we immersed into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the posture of learners rather than in the posture of heroes?
- What would change in our own contexts if we learned from our international friends what it means to walk in the peacemaking Way of Jesus?
In spending significant time considering the answers to those questions, The Global Immersion Project was born.
CORY: What are some ways Fuller students could get involved in what you’re doing?
JER: Currently there are four ways to get involved: (1) Follow & Share; (2) Learning Labs; (3) Regional, One-Day Intensives; (4) The Cohort; and (5) Speaking/Teaching.
Follow & Share: One of the greatest gifts to Global Immersion is the expanding network of friends who are discovering us and believing in us enough to follow and share our work. We've found that it really does matter to the cause of peace when people share what we’re doing. Follow us on Twitter, Friend us on Facebook, Connect with us on Instagram, and Subscribe to our monthly newsletter. You could also connect personally with Jon here, and with Jer here.
Learning Labs: We curate 3-Phase Learning Labs for seventeen participants each that culminate in 8-day immersive experiences into international and domestic conflicts and into the lives of the Everyday Peacemakers embedded within. By the end of the Learning Lab, participants are equipped to engage any conflict compassionately, creatively, collaboratively, and transformationally. Our Learning Labs are currently set in Israel/Palestine and on the US/Mexican border around the Immigration Crisis. Contact us for upcoming dates or to tailor-make a Learning Lab for your community.
Regional, One-Day Intensives: Through our one-day everyday peacemaking intensives called Cultivate, we equip individuals, teams, and faith communities to embrace peacemaking as the mission of God and vocation of God's people, and to practically shift peacemaking from esoteric theory and aspiring value to costly, embodied reality. We host Cultivate intensives throughout the country in major urban centers, our next one occurring in Seattle and in conjunction with The Parish Collective’s Inhabit Conference on April 24.
Read more about Cultivate and register to join us in Seattle!
The Cohort: Over the course of 4-6 months, our cohorts develop leaders into everyday peacemaking practitioners and trainers through ongoing collaborative instruction and experiential learning. This forum is designed for individuals and churches that are seeking to leverage their influence in our world as compassionate, intelligent instruments of peace.
Speaking/Teaching: Both Jon and I are sought-after voices in the following areas: peacemaking as the mission of God, peacemaking as discipleship, fusing the local with the global, theology of place, and neighboring. Whether in a keynote address, a sermon, or a seminar, we employ creative, engaging styles of communication to connect people with God’s heart for peace.
CORY: Are there any particular challenges you’ve faced in organizing Global Immersion?
JER: The main challenge has been that we don’t live in the same place. We’ve gotten savvy at online meetings, but nothing compares to the moments we’re in the same room. To combat this, we commit to being face-to-face once a month for some extended time of visioning, networking, and development. A second challenge would be that we’re both visionary leaders, making the imagining and dreaming life giving and the organizing and prioritizing a challenge. It’s only recently that we’ve been able to expand our team by hiring Becky, our administrative coordinator and guru of logistics. Our work has multiplied exponentially because Beck is on our team.
CORY: Anything you wish you would have done differently?
JER: We would have tested our theory more thoroughly before going public with our work. Our desire to go live with Global Immersion and the pace with which we did it forced us to have to backtrack a number of times to correct, shift, and focus our mission, our language, and our brand. In light of that, we’d encourage others to have vision and to dream big while recognizing that what is being born is a living organism that will constantly evolve, especially in the initial moments. Have some patience, test your theory, know the problem you’re trying to solve, and focus your mission . . . then go live with it.
CORY: Is there anything you might say to someone who is interested in doing work similar to Global Immersion?
- Find a partner. The building of an organization or initiative will require you to be shoulder-to-shoulder with someone who shares your passion and is willing to sacrifice to see the vision become reality.
- Be willing and ready to take critique. Pursue feedback from people who will tell you the truth. It’s worth it.
- Continuously refine the vision. What you set out to do at first may be a mere hint of what will actually emerge.
- Experiment. Don't be afraid to experiment and/or fail. It will only benefit the vision and enhance your work.
- Learn from and build collaborative friendships with people and organizations who are doing similar work. If you’re initiating a nonprofit, you are actually seeking to solve a problem. Get really clear on that problem and then find the people who are addressing that problem. Collaboration will impact more than competition.